Thursday, July 15, 2010

Millbot Mix - July - "Electro-A-Go-Go"

I can't remember exactly how old I was when I fell in love with DJs. Young. Probably around 14 or so. And I'm not talking about radio hosts. My discovery of electronic music coincided with this infatuation and led to me saving my pennies so I could purchase my first set of turntables and mixer.

I got them secondhand from a friend. They were purple Numarks, very plastic and not at all fancy but still - turntables. And they were mine.

I still remember the first record I bought, too. The town where I lived had just gotten its first music store that sold new dance records, so I threw a few bucks together and headed over. I picked up a remix of Tori Amos' "Professional Widow" and a couple other cuts - and that was it. I was hooked. I spent hours teaching myself how to beat-match (because no one I knew in the area really did it so there was no one to pester into being a tutor), bought records, played a couple of house parties...and one day even upgraded to a pair of really nice Numark's and mixer that I still have now.

The trouble was that being a really good DJ requires a serious time commitment that I just wasn't able to make. Between everything else I got up to and a full-time job, both the tables and my skills started to collect dust.

But over the past couple of years - and especially since I've embarked on my desk-jobless life - the allure of mixing has taken hold of me again. And now, with the advent of mp3s and laptop mixing technology, you don't need to lug around an expansive vinyl collection to play shows. So I figured I've let it go for long enough. It's time to get back into the swing of things.

I've got a lot of coins to save before I can get a proper laptop setup, but in the meantime I'm going to work on the basics. A new mix about once a month, if I can manage it, even though I still don't have the ideal set-up (as things stand, the program I'm using doesn't let me hear incoming tracks, so I have to do everything visually and by being really familiar with the songs).

And the first one is here! It's all electro-house (and indie-dance) all the time! Enjoy:

Millbots Electro-A-Go-Go by Millbot

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ode to Rock Island

Camping. Since humankind first moved into towns and cities, the seemingly instinctive desire to return to the wilderness has driven us to everything from the epic treks of the explorers to the backyard tent-outs of suburban children.

I'm no different. While I have a great appreciation for the many comfortable amenities of modern life, there's a part of me that yearns to prepare and cook my meals in the great outdoors, sleep on the ground, live off the grid. And so I, like countless other Americans, set out for the campground - looking for even a small taste of the lost rustic existence of my ancestors.

...well, with the addition of waterproof fabrics and propane stoves, anyway.

A short while ago I headed north with four good friends and The Fella for a place I'd never before visited but is, as it turns out, just a short drive and some ferry-hopping away. Rock Island. A state park set off the tip of tourist-famous Door County, Wisconsin, it's one of those rare, relatively close-by places a person can go for something a little more serious than the "family camping" experience found in most other parks.

It's 912 acres of incredibly rocky soil, pine forests, beautifully blue-green water, no cars, no bikes, and no electricity. You have to take the ferry from Door County to Washington Island, and then the much smaller Karfi ferry from Washington Island to Rock Island, to make it over. That alone seems to weed out the more casual campers.

Once there, you need to be able to carry all of your equipment on your back or, if you're lucky, on one of the very few handcarts available at the landing, all the way to whatever campsite you've reserved. We'd booked two sites on the southeastern side of the island - one that overlooked a small rocky bluff down to the water, where we set up for cooking and loafing, and another that was more set back and sheltered, where we pitched our tents.

There are a couple of backpacking sites that are much further removed from everything else and would take a more serious and thoughtful packing effort to occupy. (Actually, I'm keen to try one of them out next time we make the trip.)

You see, even once you get all of your gear to your site, both firewood and drinking water have to be hauled in from the one spot on the island where you can get them. Firewood is sold from a shelter near the boat landing from only 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. each day, and the only potable water pump is nearby. Getting and hauling these things quickly becomes a crucial daily routine, forcing you to plan all other activities around them.

That's OK, because when staying on Rock Island, time is definitely on your side. Since there's no electricity, there's no television or telephones or internet. Which is precisely one of the main reasons I loved it.

But Emily, you may ask, you're a total internet nerd! How could you handle not being plugged in for a whole five days?

Quite frankly, I've never had issues going off grid. Once I'm away from the distraction of the web, I really don't miss it. Instead, I'm more than content to focus on the world around me and the essential tasks required to stay alive and comfortable.

I really like building good campfires (to the point that, minus one crucial sanity gene, I might otherwise have become a bit of a pyromaniac). I adore cooking meals over them. I enjoy the challenge of putting together a sturdy, weather resistant campsite. I like waking up with the sun in the morning and under the unpolluted stars at night.

Of course, it rained off and on while we were there and made the whole waking-with-the-sun thing a little difficult, but otherwise Rock Island is a great place to do all of those things.

Plus! 10 miles of hiking trails, several rocky beaches and one white sand beach, an over century-old restored lighthouse, rock carvings, wild strawberry patches, and a few good lawn games available at the main boat house (we opted for a bocce ball deathmatch).

And just a few snakes.

*It's worth noting, too, that said boat house and most of the structures on the island were built by inventor, businessman, and rare book enthusiast Chester Thordarson, who used to own the place--because that's what rich folk do. Own islands. Thankfully these rich folk took pretty good care of the place and then the state bought it from the family in 1965, giving us the fabulous park in return.

The Lost Albatross